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Adjustable magnetic poles vs. adjustable steel poles

Discussion in 'Just Pickups' started by Wallaby, Aug 30, 2020.

  1. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    I am wondering about adjustable magnetic poles vs. adjustable steel poles.

    I know from tweaking PAF & P90 pickups endlessly on my never-ending tone quest that the tonal character of a pickup that has level pole pieces and whose body is raised or lowered is quite different than a pickup that has its pole pieces raised or lowered instead.

    There is science involved that explains the tonal change I think, related to changes in inductance and eddy currents as the ferrous mass within the coil is altered when the pole heights change - but I'm not knowledgeable enough to understand it in depth.

    What about pickups that have adjustable magnetic poles? Is the tonal character altered in the same way as with their steel-pole counterparts?

    Two pickups I know about with adjustable magnetic poles are some P90 Staple and Dynasonic pickups, and I don't have experience with either.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Suproman

    Suproman Tele-Meister

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    I have Dynasonics in my Gretsch and they do sound different if you raise the whole pickup closer to the strings as opposed to just raising the polepieces. To my ear they sound fuller if you raise the whole pickup.
     
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  3. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Thank you Suproman.

    That is the same tonal change I notice with P90's and PAFs, basically. Raised poles increase overall volume but seem to reduce focus and edge a bit compared to raising the entire body.

    Are you able to say if the difference between raising poles and raising the entire pickup is as noticeable ( or maybe more noticeable ) with your Dynasonics as it is with a non-magnetic pole pickup like a PAF or a P90?

     
  4. LetItGrowTone

    LetItGrowTone Tele-Meister

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    When the pickup/polepiece is too close to the string there are bad effects. << That's not what I'm talking about.

    Moving the pickup or polepiece closer to the string increases a type of distortion (which isn't mentioned often) caused by the magnetic field strength being non-linear. I never tried to isolate this specific distortion but it's a part of the sounds we've all heard.

    I guess that if the magnetic field at the tip of the polepiece is *weaker*, then the polepiece could be moved closer (without that bad effect in the first sentence), and the non-linearity could be exaggerated in order to isolate and observe it (and decide whether you like it or not).

    The more the tip of the polepiece is beveled, rounded or even pointed, the more this could be exaggerated. I think alnico is brittle? So one could do more with steel.

    >>Answer to your question: If the magnetic field at the tip of the steel polepiece ("conducting" the magnet's pull from below) is *weaker* than the magnetic field at the tip of a magnetic polepiece (don't know that this is usually the case, because the magnet below the steel polepieces could be very strong), then the steel could be placed closer. In other threads an affordable magnetic field strength meter has been recommended (sorry, don't remember the brand), and that could contribute to the investigation. Or just use feel for rough measure.

    If you do this with the intention of isolating that distortion I hope you talk about it here.
    A clip would be nice. :)

    EDIT: "Raised poles increase overall volume but seem to reduce focus and edge a bit" Sounds like the highs are affected more than the lows.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
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  5. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Thanks LetItGrowTone.

    I'm trying to understand what tonal differences there are between pickups with adjustable steel poles vs. adjustable magnetic poles, and if raising and lowering the poles has the same effect on tone for each.

    I am trying to learn more about how the different pickup designs sound, basically.

    My perception is that pickups have a basic character, and I also like pickups to have a particular balance between bass and treble and midrange ( like we all do ). I get most of that adjusting done to reach the balance I like by adjusting the bass side and treble side to where I like it.

    The "last mile" in adjustment, I think, would be the adjustable pole pieces - BUT -

    I find adjusting pole pieces can have an effect on the "basic character" of the pickup that I mentioned, and I almost never like the way it sounds once I do it.

    There is mention sometimes of lowering the pickups and raising the poles to eliminate mud and achieve greater note separation. That can work - but when I try it I end up feeling like I've lost the most interesting part of the pickup's sound, tonally. To my ears, completely subjectively and no offense intended to anyone who loves that sound, the pickup sounds lacking to me after doing that.

    So I'd like to understand adjustable magnetic poles more, basically, and see if when they are raised they do a better job of retaining the basic character of the pickup.
     
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  6. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Doctor of Teleocity Silver Supporter

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    DeArmond Model 2000/Gretsch Dyna types have more articulation and high end, in general over the bar magnet counter parts (P90s). I’m gonna slice out HBs because they have different variable going on. I don’t see much need to adjust a P90, the screw poles act in subtle ways compared to a Dyna type, which have immediate results. In the latter case, Dynas are ‘touchy’ or ‘hard to dial in’ but it’s the nature of the tweaky beast. No easy way to adjust coil height, but extremely adjustable magnet poles for each string.

    I’ve use TV Jones T-Armond in a number of guitars. The Filtertron-sized T-As have easy adjustment for both overall pickup height and magnet poles. It’s as many other users have said before: raise the poles for a thinner, twangier sound, and for a louder, fuller sound bring the poles flush with the coil. I even know some finger picker types that adjust each string via a DAW and end up lowering the low E coils down below the tops of the coil.

    I also agree about ‘basic pickup sound’. Nobody is going to turn a Dyna into a P90 or vice versa by adjustment alone. They are difference designs that can potentially overlap in some regard, but still respond differently ‘in the wild’. As for the tweaking tips, that’s not ‘robbing’ my pickup of anything, just coercing a little more treble, a little less bass for something flubby to begin with, namely the neck pickup bass notes. I’m picky about that, and nothing can quite do what my ideal does for a neck pickup: the articulate, ‘bouncy’, ‘spongy’ wound string sound in a Jazzmaster with it’s neck pickup full up, 1meg pots. Lol I know thats ridiculous but it’s my own playing truth. Fact is, the Dyna does that, owning to it’s magnet pole design, and the bass is humongous but clear. A bar magnet type pickuo can’t really do that as well. YMMV
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
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  7. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    Searching...

    I have read that steel poles are actually pretty inefficient - and *do* allow the poles to be closer to the strings before affecting their vibration. Grain of salt, internet "facts" and all that - but it's something I've read.

     
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  8. Wallaby

    Wallaby Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    YES!

    Sort of a "more of what's good and less of what's bad without losing the best of it all" scenario.

    I notice the T-Armonds in their Soapbar configuration have overall pickup height adjustments as well as individual pole adjustments... Hmmm.

     
  9. jvin248

    jvin248 Poster Extraordinaire

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    .

    Putting a pickup closer to the strings increases the volume output ... but often muddies the tone, some call this "warmer"/"fuller". Further away gives clearer notes and more dynamic tone contents but some think this is "thinner" and don't like it. Use your ears to adjust up down pickups and pole pieces or across a pickup like the Strat Stagger patten.


    Common magnetic pole
    [​IMG]
    Common Tele magnetic pole with steel baseplate, concentrates more of the field toward the strings for more output.

    [​IMG]

    Steel slug poles with Ceramic magnet. Colors are not to scale, these often have more output and why some players don't like their tone -- the pickups need to be set further from the strings to get the same output voltage and tonal content but players use the pickup setup specs for weaker Alnico when setting them and then complain they are too harsh/muddy/etc.

    [​IMG]

    Remember that magnetic field strength follows a distance-squared formula so a small distance change can be a big change on output. I've found MIM dual-bar ceramic pickups when lowered down by the pickguard have a dramatic tone change within 1/8th inch height adjustments. And then many players try to get more amp punishing voltage by pushing them as close as they can to the strings. Use your ears to get what you want.

    .
     
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  10. LetItGrowTone

    LetItGrowTone Tele-Meister

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    Magnetic field strength meter: WT10A Search on that. 29 hits here!
    Capacitance/"Q" meter: DE-5000

    @Wallaby, I want to understand everything too but one can waste a lot of time and money compared to just choosing what sounds best to you.
     
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2020
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